Last edited 10 Feb 2021

Dangerous buildings

Demolition-demolish pixabay.jpg


[edit] Introduction

Any building or structure, or part thereof, which due to its parlous structural state is liable to cause harm to its users and passers-by, whether now or in the future, is regarded as dangerous. This can include walls with serious evidence of cracking or subsidence, floor members that exhibit excessive bending and parts or components which have already failed, such as coping stones which have become dislodged and have either fallen to the street below or look as if they are about to. Also, if a building or structure is carrying loads that make it look as if it might be in danger of failing, it is also considered dangerous.

Although the term ‘dangerous’ is frequently used to describe the physical state of a structure, a building can also be dangerous if it contains materials such as asbestos which are hazardous to health. If such materials are discovered, they should be referred to the local authority immediately and a professional removal contractor called in to make the building safe for occupation.

In the UK, where a building or part of a building (or structure) exhibits serious structural deficiencies and poses a danger to health, the local authority can apply to a magistrate’s court to force the owner to:

During the time taken for either of the above two options to be completed, the local authority can issue a court order restricting use of the building until that time when all the required works have been carried out to the satisfaction of a magistrate’s court.

A local authority can also force owners to act immediately to remove any dangers if the situation is deemed to be an emergency (see below). Alternatively, it may decide to take the necessary action itself, in which case it can recover from the owner any reasonably-incurred expenses. This can include fencing-off arrangements and monitoring of the structure.

[edit] Demolishing a dangerous building

There are severe penalties for illegally demolishing a building or structure, even if it is in a parlous state. A small outhouse, for instance, even if unsafe, may seem architecturally insignificant but could have great historical significance.

Demolition of a dangerous building must be backed by sound reasons, for example, if it forms part of improvement or rebuilding works. In most cases, the planning applications for such works usually include the reason for demolition which will either be permitted or not in the final planning ruling.

Any intention to demolish – even a dangerous building – must be communicated to the local authority. It will then issue an acknowledgement or notice requiring the owner to provide further information; the reasons for the demolition, and the method to be used. For example, a wrecking ball may be inappropriate in some circumstances.

The owner is usually required to circulate copies of their notice to various parties with an interest in the building, such as the gas and electricity providers, the building occupier and the local authority.

Some structures may not fall under the provisions of the Building Act 1984. Greenhouses, conservatories, sheds, some agricultural buildings and prefabricated garages (that form part of a building) may not be affected. It is therefore crucial to seek the advice of the local authority in any case of doubt concerning a proposed demolition.

[edit] Very dangerous buildings

Where a local authority regards a building to be dangerous to the point of requiring immediate demolition, it can require the owner to act to:

Where there is an immediate danger, owners and others should contact the appropriate local authority and provide information such as:

For more information see: Demolition.

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